The focus of this course will be the philosophy of the three central figures of 17th-century continental thought: Descartes, Spinoza, and Leibniz. We shall explore the works of these philosophers both systematically and diachronically and focus on the central themes common to the three: the relation of the self to the world; the relation of God to the world; the possibility and extent of one’s knowledge of the world; the philosophical underpinnings of the emerging ‘new science’; and the practice of philosophy.
Students are required to write three essays of approximately 5-7 pages. While I shall provide topics for these essays, students may, after having consulted with me, write on some other relevant topic that they find more interesting. All graduate students, however, have the option of writing one longer paper of approximately 18-20 pages in length. Due-dates for these papers can be found in the schedule below.
Format and Participation:
This course will be a mixture of lecture and discussion. I expect all students to have read the assigned material prior to class, to have thought about it, and to come to class prepared to discuss it. In cases where a student’s grade may be on the borderline, I will reward those students who contributed to the class.
The Philosophical Writings of Descartes, trans. and ed. by Cottingham, Stoothoff, and Murdoch (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1985), vols. I & II.
A Spinoza Reader, ed. and trans. by E. Curley (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1994).
G.W. Leibniz: Philosophical Essays, ed. and trans. Ariew and Garber (Indianapolis: Hackett, 1989).
The Philosophical Writings of Descartes, trans. and ed. by Cottingham, Stoothoff, Murdoch, and Kenny (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1991), vol. III.
The Collected Works of Spinoza, ed. and trans. by E. Curley (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1985), vol. I.